Truth be known, I never watched breakfast TV even when I was on it.Noel Coward: Television is for appearing on – not for looking at.
For once I’m down with Russell and Noel. I used to do morning TV – book reviews on Good Morning. It was great – I got paid, spent half an hour in the green room with the hilarious Steve Gray, sometimes got to say hi to the lovely Annabel Langbein, met loads of even more famous people who were guests on the show, did three minutes of live telly and then went back to my day job as editor of Architecture New Zealand. (I still don’t know if they never noticed I was gone, or preferred it that way.) But I reckon I spent more time then on TV than I did watching it.
The only difficult moment was in 2002 when I was to review Owen Marshall’s new short-story collection When Gravity Snaps. I am a huge fan of Owen’s. I had read the book carefully, preparing some lines that would make me look intelligent, maybe even sensitive. On the day, during the ad break before my slot while I was being wired for sound – you get two minutes, max – I noticed the books set out on the table for me to pick up and present to camera while I was talking about them. Two I had read and prepared for: the other was Owen’s new anthology of work by other people, Essential New Zealand Short Stories. I had never heard of it, never seen it before. The publisher had sent the wrong Owen Marshall book in.
Yes, I did say “Fuck,” quietly. But on live TV the job is to not get tripped up by trivial things such as never having seen the book you are about to review, live, in real time in what by now was 30 seconds. You certainly don’t let on to the director or the presenter that there is a problem. They have enough to deal with.
Reader, I did it. It helped that I had read almost all the stories in the book – Owen is a great anthologist – so I skimmed the contents page and winged it. I reviewed, live on TV, a book I had not only not read but had never seen before.
I think I got away with it, but I was sweating a bit by the end.
FIGJAM for a day.